December 14, 2023
SEOUL – South Korea ranked as the ninth-largest recent contributor to the global climate change crisis, with a financial liability of 517.7 trillion won ($392.7 billion), according to an analysis released by the nonprofit Solutions for Our Climate on Tuesday.
Assuming the same liabilities for both developing and underdeveloped countries affected by the climate crisis every year until 2050, the organization concluded that Korea’s climate debt will average 20 trillion won per year. Among Korean companies, Korea Electric Power Corp., one of Korea’s largest electric utilities, ranked as one of the most responsible companies for Korea’s climate debt.
Titled “South Korea’s Liability for Climate Change Damages: Calculating Debt Behind Gross Domestic Product Losses,” the nonprofit organization stated that it applied an analytical methodology to Korea’s greenhouse emissions data to monetarily quantify the country’s liability. SFOC stated that it followed the methodology published in the academic journal One Earth in May to calculate the amount of climate debt for countries and companies based in those countries around the world.
According to the SFOC’s report, Korea was responsible for up to 1.7 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions from 1990-2020, making it the ninth largest contributor in the world. The country ranking as the highest contributor in that period was China, responsible for up to 21.39 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, amounting to 652.9 trillion won. The United States trailed closely at 18.94 percent, while Russia, India and Japan distantly followed.
Using the same methodology to estimate the contribution and financial responsibility of Korean companies due to their greenhouse gas emissions from 2011 to 2020, the SFOC found that Korean steelmaker Posco topped the list, contributing 0.21 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with liability of 64.2 trillion won.
In second through sixth place were Korea Electric Power Corp. subsidiaries, which together accounted for 0.57 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, amounting to 175 trillion won.
The SFOC concluded that the findings could be a conversation starter in the climate crisis debate and the kind of losses and damages Korea has been responsible for.
“Our analysis of the extent to which countries and companies are responsible for the climate crisis shows that Korea has a greater responsibility than previously thought,” said Kim Joo-jin, CEO of SFOC.